meenakshi temple south india

The baroque Shri Meenakshi-Sundareshwarar temple at Madurai

The Meenakshi temple is one of the largest in India, enclosed by 15-foot-high walls. It is the cultural heart of the holy city of Madurai, and a true “living” temple, with than 15,000 faithful visitors each day. Visiting Shri Meenakshi is a truly fascinating experience.

Photo by Hashmat Singh

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South India Private Journey

Enchanting Temples, Rich Cultures, and Undiscovered Treasures of India’s Vibrant South

South India Private Journey route-map

Trip Details at-a-Glance

Cost From: $5195  
Length: 11 days
Arrive: Mumbai, India
Depart: Chennai, India
Lodging: 9 nights in comfortable hotels (first class or deluxe option), 1 night well-appointed houseboat
Meals: All meals included except 1 dinner
Activity: Walking, Cultural Adventures
Trip Level: Overland travel with walking tours
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Highlights

  • The rock-cut caves of Ellora and Ajanta, the exquisite Meenakshi temple of Madurai
  • Spice gardens and tea plantations, Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Travel the quiet waterways of Kerala aboard a beautiful private houseboat
  • Roam the narrow lanes of Cochin, ancient port of entry for spice traders on the Malabar Coast

Choosing the Right Trip

We work hard to help you choose the right trip for you, paying attention to your individual interests, abilities, and needs. If you have questions about the level of comfort or any of the activities described in this itinerary, please contact us.

References

We are proud to have an exceptionally high rate of repeat travelers. For more information, we would be happy to put you in touch with a client who has traveled with us.

Departure Notes

Once you have signed up on the trip, we send a complete packing list, relevant health information, and required travel documents.

A kaleidoscope of adventures await in South India, where ancient temples are alive with the attentions of devout worshipers, colorful festivals abound, and a teeming melange of distinct cuisines and vibrant cultural heritages are evident everywhere you go. On this Private Journey, discover the distinctive flavors of the south as you explore the rock-cut caves of Ellora and Ajanta, the exquisite temples of Madurai, one of India’s oldest cities, and seek out wildlife in Periyar, a wildlife reserve set near tea plantations and spice gardens. In enchanting tropical Kerala, travel quiet waterways aboard a beautiful private houseboat to watch the pageant of traditional riverside life and roam the narrow lanes of Cochin, ancient port of entry for spice traders on the Malabar Coast.

Itinerary at a Glance

For a more complete description, Download Full Detailed Itinerary

Days 1-2
Dynamic Mumbai

Mumbai (formerly Bombay) was the first part of India to be colonized by the British. Today it is a dynamic powerhouse of business, trade, and industry, including its film industry (“Bollywood”), the largest in the world. With your private guide, visit the Elephanta Caves, a cluster of rock-cut caves carved in the 6th to 8th centuries, and tour the city, including the Gateway of India, the city’s iconic landmark overlooking the sea.

Days 3-4
Magnificent Ellora and Ajanta

On a privately guided visit, explore the cave temples of Ellora and Ajanta, both UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Built between the 5th and 10th centuries, Ellora’s temples are carved into volcanic rock and display elaborate bas-reliefs and sculptures depicting images of the Buddha, other deities, and garden scenes, as well as cathedral-like halls and courtyards. The Ajanta cave temples and monasteries, beautifully situated in a wooded ravine in the Waghora Valley, are hollowed out of granite cliffs. They contain richly ornamented sculptures and are noted for the fresco-like murals depicting Buddhist legends and deities.

Days 5-6
Cochin, tropical Kerala

Cochin (now known as Kochi), set in a stunning location along the Arabian Sea, has a long history as a trading city. With your private guide, explore the old Fort Cochin and Mattancherry districts, with their interesting cultural monuments reflecting a diverse heritage, view Cochin’s trademark fishing nets along the waterfront, and enjoy a traditional Parimaral meal, typical of the intriguing diversity of South Indian cuisine. On one evening, enjoy a performance of traditional arts and dance forms of Kerala.

Day 7
Kerala Backwaters Cruise

Aboard your deluxe, private houseboat, cruise through the tranquil backwaters of Kerala, a beautiful region nestled between the sea and the hills of Cochin. An overnight journey through this quiet region reveals the picturesque rural life of Kerala people working their fields with water buffaloes, fishing with nets from traditional longboats, and washing their clothes at the water's edge.

Day 8
Cardamom Hills / Periyar

Travel through beautiful tea, spice, and rubber plantations to Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary in the Cardamom Hills of the Western Ghat Mountains. At least 260 species of birds have been recorded at Periyar reserve. This afternoon, enjoy a visit to a private spice garden nearby as well as the local spice market, or enjoy a walk on a forested trail in the reserve.

Days 9-11
Temples of Madurai, Chennai

In Madurai, join your guide for a visit to the Shri Meenakshi-Sundareshwarar temple, a fortress-like structure that is breathtakingly baroque with its abundance of gods, goddesses, rearing horses, and mythical figures. Visiting the temple is a truly intense and fascinating experience, with a constant flow of devout worshipers and a profusion of colorful flowers and puja offerings (ritual worship or devotional offerings). You will also visit the 17th century Thirumalai Nayak Palace, with its interesting blend of Dravidian, Islamic, and European styles. Fly to Chennai (formerly known as Madras) for departure on Day 11.

For a more complete description, Download Full Detailed Itinerary

Optional Extensions

If you would like to continue your adventure, we offer the following extensions:

What the Trip is Like

This trip is Level 1+, Easy, according to the Wilderness Travel trip rating system. It is a comfortable, vehicle-based sightseeing trip. Please remember that travel in India can be an adventure. The essential requirements are flexibility, a sense of humor, curiosity, enthusiasm about new peoples and places, and an openness to the unexpected.

Explanation of Trip Levels

 

When to go

Mid-November to February

For our Private Journey trips, you choose your own group and your preferred dates—there are no set departure dates. Private Journeys are available to groups as few as two people or as large as you like. Contact us for availability, questions, or to book your adventure!

Trip Cost

Prices valid through September 30, 2015

First Class Option

$5195 per person, double occupancy
Single supplement: $1780
Internal airfare: $1270 (subject to change)

Deluxe Option

$5995 per person, double occupancy
Single supplement: $2350
Internal airfare: $1270 (subject to change)

Call for discounted rates for groups of three or more.

Note: A Holiday Surcharge will apply for travel between December 15 and January 15. The surcharge amount will depend on the exact dates of travel and availability of featured accommodations.

Prices are not guaranteed until services are confirmed.
more on pricing

Extension Costs
Taj Mahal and Jaipur Extension
   from: $2595
Varanasi and Khajuraho Extension
   from: $1295
Kanha National Park Extension
   from: $2095
Dharamsala and Amritsar Extension
   from: $1795

Trip Cost Includes:

  • Accommodations
  • All meals included except 1 dinner
  • Tours and sightseeing as described in the Full Trip Brochure with private English-speaking guides
  • Land transportation as noted in the Full Trip Brochure
  • All airport transfers

Trip Cost Does Not Include:

International airfare, flights within India (see separate cost above), any meals not specified after each itinerary day in the Full Trip Brochure, any activities described as optional, airport departure taxes, optional tipping or gratuities to staff, additional hotel nights made necessary by airline schedule changes or other factors, pre-trip expenses such as medical immunizations (if any), travel insurance, or passports and visas; and other expenses of a personal nature (alcoholic beverages, laundry, etc.).

Trip Payment Schedule

At time of reservation: $500
120 days prior to departure: 20% of trip cost
60 days prior to departure: Balance

Cancellation and Transfer Fee Schedule*

Minimum fee: $250 per person
90-46 days prior to departure: 25% of trip cost
45 days or less: 100% of trip cost

*Please note that this differs from our regular catalog departures.

Hotels in Mumbai

Days 1 to 2 (2 nights), Mumbai, India

In Mumbai, we stay at one of the following properties based on availability and choice of accommodation:

Hotels in Aurangabad

Days 3 to 4 (2 nights), Aurangabad, India

In Aurangabad, we stay at one of the following properties based on availability and choice of accommodation:

Hotels in Cochin

Days 5 to 6 (2 nights), Cochin, India

In Cochin, we stay at one of the following properties based on availability and choice of accommodation:

Traditional Houseboat

Traditional Houseboat

Day 7 (1 night), Alleppey, India

The beautiful houseboats of Kerala, called kettuvallams, were once used to transport rice, spices, and other goods to the port of Cochin. ...
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Hotels in Periyar

Day 8 (1 night), Periyar, India

In Periyar, we stay at one of the following properties based on availability and choice of accommodation:

Hotels in Madurai

Day 9 (1 night), Madurai, India

In Madurai, we stay at one of the following properties based on availability and choice of accommodation:

Hotels in Chennai

Day 10 (1 night), Chennai, India

In Chennai, we stay at one of the following properties based on availability and choice of accommodation:

Extension Accommodations

If you would like to view the accommodations offered with our extensions options:

Note: Listed above are our signature accommodations for this trip. Although it is highly unlikely, we may make substitutions when necessary.

Optional Extensions

If you would like to continue your adventure, we offer the following extensions:

India

Dharamsala and Amritsar Extension

The Dalai Lama's Mountain Abode & the Sikhs' Golden Temple

Cultural Adventures, Walking
5 days  -  Level 1+

Kanha National Park Extension

Gameviewing in one of India’s Great Wildlife Reserves

Wildlife & Natural History
5 days  -  Level 2

taj mahal agra india cultural tour

Taj Mahal and Jaipur Extension

Romantic Rajasthan, Land of Princes

Cultural Adventures
4 days  -  Level 1

Varanasi and Khajuraho Extension

Holy City Along the Ganges, Magnificent World-Famous Temples

Cultural Adventures
4 days  -  Level 1